When you think of Africa the first image that comes to mind probably isn’t sub-zero temperatures and falling snow. But that’s exactly what you get while climbing the world’s largest free standing mountain: Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.
Rising to a massive 5,895 metres above sea level, it should really come as no surprise to see white flakes drift past or feel the icy cold seep into your bones. But after a gruelling ascent up to the peak, Gilman’s Point, it’s the little things that keep you going: seeing the stars twinkling brightly above; listening to the guides sing the real version of Hakuna Matata; watching the sun rise slowly into the sky.
Trekking along the Marangu route (there are many others available including Exsus-favourite, the lesser-trodden Rongai route) we passed through lush, green rainforest, desert landscapes filled with trees that looked like over-grown pineapples and open moorland.
During our climb we were ever grateful for the amazing porters who carried our packs for us and it was quite a sight to see these men, decked only in trainers and fleeces, walking past with bundles expertly perched on their heads. The smiles and expert advice of our guides – the words pole pole (slowly, slowly) never far from their lips – was crucial to moving forward. But what really kept us putting one foot in front of the other was the support of each other.
The sense of family already strong among our group of 22 before we set off was firmly cemented as we pushed each other to overcome the aching muscles, dizzy spells and lack of energy associated with altitude sickness. Having the person next to you share a joke, give you a sip of their water or offer their last few sweets made it that little bit easier to go higher and higher.
Reaching Gilman’s Point or pushing on past it to the ultimate pinnacle of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak is without a doubt a feat of individual greatness, but it’s the group spirit of support and encouragement that was the driving force behind our climb up Africa’s highest mountain.
After the incredible, challenging experience of making it to the summit of the ‘Roof of Africa’, our weary group relished the chance to relax on a tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean: a little slice of paradise better known as Zanzibar. Due to luck or misfortune we missed the last ferry and had to charter a private plane to the island. It could have been a disaster but flying above Dar es Salaam and watching the lights brighten the darkness was a highlight of our trip.
Sun-filled days on Zanzibar were taken up with activities that required zero effort: muscle-soothing massages, haggling for colourful scarves or succulent seafood in the local markets of Stone Town and unwinding on one of the many white-sand beaches.
Occasionally we managed to drag ourselves from relaxing and ended up on trips to see historic spice plantations or the rare red colobus monkeys in the Jozani Forest which leapt from the trees and scurried past our feet, their long tails brushing our legs. Evenings were devoted to doing nothing but sitting on the waterfront watching the sunset with a ‘funky monkey’ in hand and wishing we had longer on this idyllic island.
For an once-in-a-lifetime adventure up Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro (and some well-deserved rest on Zanzibar) speak to one of our travel experts on 020 7337 9010.